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Younger veterans bypassing VFW, American Legion for modern service organizations

 
 
Those who served in Iraq, Afghanistan gravitate toward modern organizations
 
Kate Hoit served eight years in the Army Reserves, including a tour in Iraq, but when she tried to join her local Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter, someone asked whether she needed an application for military spouses instead.
 
veteransNow, Ms. Hoit said, she will never join the VFW or the American Legion. She said the organizations are unwelcoming and out of touch with the needs of post-Sept. 11 veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
 
“I’m not going to go the VFW or the Legion and drink and smoke cigarettes,” she said. “I want to be out in my community.”
Her complaint is echoed by other veterans of the war on terrorism, who see the venerable veterans groups as fraternities of older men from previous wars. The new generation of veterans instead is gravitating toward groups organized around activities such as running or volunteering, and groups that allow nonmilitary members to take part as well.
 
Younger veterans say the traditional organizations differ in many ways from groups that appeal to them, including the types of advocacy they do and their ways of communication — “snail mail” versus email.
 
Officials from the Legion and VFW say they are trying to maintain the valuable clout they have built on Capitol Hill and need support to help veterans navigate the bureaucracy of the Department of Veterans Affairs — benefits that the more modern groups don’t provide.
 
It’s a challenge for the traditional veterans organizations, who agree they need to change to stay relevant.
 
Unwelcoming
 
Post-9/11 veterans say a typical experience at a local post involves walking into a dimly lit hall only to find unwelcoming veterans 30 years older who are having drinks at 10 a.m.
“It’s just the most depressing place,” said Sgt. Matt Pelak, an Army veteran who spent three years in Iraq and still serves in the National Guard. “I can’t imagine a place that is further removed from my generation of veterans.”
 
Veterans also said such groups deepen the divide between civilian and military worlds because only veterans are allowed to join.
More Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say they are joining groups that allow them to stay active, continue to serve their country and interact with civilians to help reintegrate into society after serving overseas.
 
Team Rubicon lets veterans serve alongside civilian first responders and “get dirty” when a natural disaster strikes, enabling them to maintain skills they learned in the military, said Sgt. Pelak, director of strategic partnerships at the 4-year-old California-based organization.
 
Team Red, White and Blue, known by members as Team RWB, focuses on fitness and organizes group runs, bicycle rides, cross fit and yoga classes in regional chapters to help veterans deal in productive ways with stress from deployments or anxiety about the future, said Capt. Brennan Mullaney, the organization’s mid-Atlantic regional director.
 
Capt. Mullaney, who transitioned to the Army Reserve in 2010, said because it’s important for younger veterans, who have been part of an all-volunteer force, to be able to continue to serve their community and country. He said traditional organizations now consist primarily of Vietnam-era veterans, many of whom were drafted and tend to have “a different view of your service and what your nation owes you.”
 
Both the VFW and American Legion say Vietnam-era veterans make up the largest portion of their membership. Only about 15 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are eligible to join the VFW have done so.
 
Membership in the VFW, which marked the 100th anniversary of its founding last month, peaked at 2.1 million in the early 1990s. That is down to about 1.3 million today, and the average age of members is nearly 70. The American Legion claims 2.4 million members, down from 3.1 million two decades ago.
 
Lynn Rolf, a former Army captain who served in Iraq, couldn’t wait to join the VFW, saying it was an honor to become a member of the same organization as his father and grandfather. Once at the post at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, however, he started to see some behavior he didn’t like.
 
“They didn’t like the young guys, they didn’t think we knew what we were talking about. It wasn’t very family-friendly,” Mr. Rolf said. “But now it is.”
 
 
Read More at The Washington Times

President Obama to Award SSG Ryan M. Pitts Medal of Honor

 
WASHINGTON – In the afternoon of July 21, 2014, President Barack Obama will award Ryan M. Pitts, a former active duty Army Staff Sergeant, the Medal of Honor for conspicuous gallantry. Staff Sergeant Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his courageous actions while serving as a Forward Observer with 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade, during combat operations at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2008.
 
Staff Sergeant Pitts will be the ninth living recipient to be awarded the Medal of Honor for actions in Iraq or Afghanistan. He and his family will join the President at the White House to commemorate his example of selfless service.
 

PERSONAL BACKGROUND:

 
President Obama to Award the Medal of Honor to former Army SSG Ryan M. Pitts on July 21, 2014

Staff Sergeant Pitts separated from the service on October 27, 2009 from Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He currently lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, where he works in business development for the computer software industry.
 

Staff Sergeant Pitts enlisted in the Army in August 2003 as a Fire Support Specialist (13F), primarily responsible for the intelligence activities of the Army’s field artillery team. After completion of training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and follow-on parachutist training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, Fort Benning, Georgia, he was assigned to Camp Ederle, Vicenza, Italy, as a radio operator with the 4th Battalion, 319th Field Artillery Regiment and 173rd Airborne Brigade where he deployed to Afghanistan. His final assignment was with the 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment “The Rock”, 173rd Airborne Brigade as a Forward Observer which included a second combat tour to Afghanistan.
 

At the time of the July 13, 2008 combat engagement, then-Sergeant Pitts was a Forward Observer in 2nd Platoon, Chosen Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 503rd Infantry Regiment 173rd Airborne Brigade as part of Task Force Rock. His heroic actions were performed at Vehicle Patrol Base Kahler, in the vicinity of Wanat Village in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
 

His personal awards include the Bronze Star Medal w/ “V” Device, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Army Commendation Medal w/ three Bronze Oak Leaf Clusters, Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal with Bronze Clasp and two Loops, National Defense Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with Two Campaign Stars, Global War on Terrorism Medal, Noncommissioned Officer Professional Development Ribbon, Army Service Ribbon, Overseas Service Ribbon with Numeral “4”, NATO Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Valorous Unit Award, Combat Action Badge, Pathfinder Badge and Parachutist Badge.
 

THE MEDAL OF HONOR:

 
The Medal of Honor is awarded to members of the Armed Forces who distinguish themselves conspicuously by gallantry above and beyond the call of duty while:
 
engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States;
engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or
serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party.
 

The meritorious conduct must involve great personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life kaufen viagra. There must be incontestable proof of the performance of the meritorious conduct, and each recommendation for the award must be considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.
 





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